Blog Nutrition Recipes Healthy Pulled Pork Recipe (And 4 Sides To Eat It With)

Healthy Pulled Pork Recipe (And 4 Sides To Eat It With)

Ah, the allure of pulled pork. This slow-cooked, shredded meat is practically synonymous with comfort food. It’s perfect for a lazy Sunday dinner or feeding a large crowd at a summer barbecue.

But if you’re watching your waistline, traditional pulled pork can be a diet disaster. A single serving can contain over 600 calories and 40 grams of fat.

Fortunately, there are a few simple swaps you can make to turn this comfort food into a healthy weeknight meal. 

Our lightened-up pulled pork recipe uses lean pork tenderloin instead of the fattier shoulder cuts that are typically used for pulled pork. It’s also cooked in a crockpot rather than on a grill or smoker, so it’s easy and mostly hands-off.

And to keep things extra healthy, we’ve paired our pulled pork with four delicious, nutrient-rich sides. From a refreshing broccoli salad to roasted sweet potatoes, these dishes will make your pulled pork dinner complete.

Here’s what you need to know to make this paleo, gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, and delicious pulled pork recipe:

Healthy Pulled Pork Recipe (2)

This pulled pork crock pot recipe has the advantage of being both healthy and delicious. It’s a great option for weeknight dinners—low in fat, loaded with protein, and you can set it and forget it!


  • 2 ½  lbs pork tenderloin (approximately 2 medium pork tenderloins)
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • ½ cup barbecue sauce of your choice (read the label carefully to find one that has little to no added sugar or other additives you may be avoiding)


  1. Use a sharp knife to trim the silver skin off of the pork tenderloins. Cut the pork into 1-inch cubes and place in a large bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, paprika, garlic powder, pepper, onion powder, cinnamon, and ginger. Pour this mixture over the pork cubes and use your hands to coat the pork evenly. Marinate this mixture overnight in a Ziploc bag. 
  3. The next day, place the marinated pork in a crock pot and pour in the chicken stock and barbecue sauce. Stir to combine. Set the crock pot to low and cook for 6-8 hours, or until the pork is cooked through and shreds easily with a fork.
  4. Once the pork is cooked, use two forks to shred the meat. Serve immediately with your choice of sides (see below for suggestions). Enjoy!
See also
4 Healthy Crockpot Recipes Anyone Can Make

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How Do You Make Pulled Pork Less Fatty?

There are a few things you can do to make your pulled pork less fatty: 

  • Choose leaner cuts of pork such as pork loin or tenderloin.
  • Trim any visible fat off the meat before cooking. 
  • Cook the pork low and slow so the fat has time to render out.  
  • Drain the fat off after cooking. 
  • Avoid adding a lot of oil or other fats when cooking. 

Is Pulled Pork a Healthy Dish?

Yes, pulled pork can generally be considered to be a healthy dish. It is an excellent source of protein and often contains other nutrients such as iron and potassium. In addition, it can be made with leaner cuts of pork, further increasing its health value by reducing the saturated fat content. 

Below are some tips on how to make a healthy pulled pork dish:

  • Serve it with a vegetable side or a salad. 
  • Avoid adding high-fat toppings, such as mayonnaise or cheese. 
  • Use moderation when eating pulled pork, as it is still a high saturated-fat food. Try to limit your portion size to 3-4 ounces per serving. 
  • If you’re looking for a low-fat alternative to pulled pork, consider similar dishes made with chicken or turkey.
See also
How To Make A Healthy Vegan Spinach Artichoke Dip

healthy pulled pork  

Is Pulled Pork Lean Meat?

No, pulled pork is not considered lean meat when it is made with the traditional fattier cuts of pork. Lean meat is defined as having less than 10 grams of fat per 100 grams of meat (6). 

Pulled pork can have up to 30 grams of fat per 100 grams depending on the cut of pork that is used to prepare it. This leads to a higher fat content than many other types of meats. Therefore, it is generally not considered to be a lean meat. 

However, when made with lean cuts of pork like tenderloin, it can be considered lean meat. These cuts are much leaner, but they can dry out easily if they’re not cooked properly. 

To avoid this, make sure you cook them low and slow so they stay moist and flavorful. You can also add a bit of liquid (such as chicken broth) to help keep them moist

Healthy Sides for Pulled Pork

Once your healthy pulled pork is cooked, it’s time to think about what sides to serve with it. Here are six delicious and nutritious side dishes that pair perfectly with pulled pork:

1. Roasted Sweet Potatoes (8)

Sweet potatoes are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which makes them a perfect healthy side to accompany your pulled pork. Roasting them brings out their natural sweetness and also gives them a lovely soft texture.


  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes cut into ½-inch square cubes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon thyme leaves


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. If you’re using an air fryer, preheat it to 375 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato cubes with the olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and thyme leaves. Use only half the amount of oil if using an air fryer. 
  3. Spread the sweet potatoes out on a baking sheet in a single layer.
  4. Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking, until the sweet potatoes are soft and lightly browned.
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The Healthiest Milkshake Ingredients For A Low-Calorie Treat

Serve alongside your pulled pork.

Read more: Keto Crock Pot Pork Chops: The Perfect Meal for Busy Weeknights

2. Roasted Brussels Sprouts (10)

Brussels sprouts are another great option for a healthy side dish. Roasting them brings out their flavor and makes them much more palatable than when they’re raw. Plus, they’re loaded with fiber and vitamins and minerals, including potassium and vitamin C.


  • 1 ½ pounds Brussels sprouts trimmed and halved
  • 4 cloves garlic very roughly chopped (leave the pieces a bit chunky)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground or grated parmesan
  • Optional: lemon, balsamic vinegar, herbs, red pepper flakes.


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • In a large bowl, combine the Brussels sprouts, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper. 
  • Toss to coat evenly then spread out on a baking sheet in a single layer. 
  • Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking, until the Brussels sprouts are tender and browned in spots.
  • Remove from the oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. 
  • Serve immediately with lemon wedges, balsamic vinegar, and/or additional herbs or red pepper flakes if desired.

healthy pulled pork  

3. Broccoli Salad (1)

Pump up the nutrition of your pulled pork meal by serving a broccoli salad on the side. Broccoli is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K, in addition to fiber and folate. And when it’s paired with this flavorful pulled pork, you’ll definitely be getting your fill of healthy goodness.

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  • 1 pound broccoli crowns
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons mayo
  • 1½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
  • ⅓ cup diced red onions
  • ⅓ cup dried cranberries
  • Smoky tamari almonds
  • ½ cup almonds
  • ½ cup pepitas
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • ½ teaspoon maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, more to taste


Prepare the smoky tamari almonds:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (163 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the almonds with the tamari, maple syrup, smoked paprika, and a pinch of salt. 
  3. Spread out on the prepared baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes, until fragrant and slightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Prepare the broccoli salad

  1. Blanch the broccoli for 2 minutes in a large pot of boiling water, then remove and place in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. 
  2. Once cooled, chop into bite-sized pieces, and set aside. 
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, mayo, apple cider vinegar, Dijon mustard, maple syrup or honey, garlic, and salt. 
  4. In a large bowl, combine the broccoli, red onions, cranberries, and smoky tamari almonds. 
  5. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat evenly. 
  6. Serve immediately or store in the fridge

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4. Quinoa Pilaf (9)

Add some whole grains to your meal with a quinoa pilaf. Quinoa is an excellent source of complete protein and fiber, and it has a nutty flavor that pairs perfectly with pork. This dish packs a veggie punch and has an earthy flavor, thanks to the shiitake mushrooms

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  • 1 cup quinoa, pre-rinsed or rinsed
  • 1⅔ cups low sodium chicken broth (best quality such as Swanson), or vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and diced
  • ¾ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup chopped pecans, toasted if desired
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil over high heat. Add the quinoa, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to sit, covered, for 5 minutes then fluff with a fork.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until hot. Add the onion, carrots, thyme, mushrooms, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Stir in the cooked quinoa and pecans, then drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. 
  4. Toss to combine, then taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary. 
  5. Stir in the parsley, then transfer to a serving dish. Serve immediately.

Read more: Healthy Pulled Pork Recipe (And 4 Sides to Eat It With)

healthy pulled pork  


  • Is pulled pork healthier than chicken?

Pulled pork isn’t always healthier than chicken. Chicken, particularly lean cuts such as the breast, is often considered healthier than pulled pork due to its lower calorie, fat, and sodium content. Here’s a comparison of these meats based on common nutritional aspects:

Calories and fat:

  • Pulled Pork: Generally higher in calories and fat compared to chicken, particularly if prepared with fatty cuts such as pork shoulder. The cooking method (e.g. smoked, slow-cooked) and added sauces can further increase calorie and fat content.
  • Chicken: Typically lower in calories and fat, particularly if you choose lean cuts such as skinless chicken breast. Grilled or baked chicken without skin is often a low-fat option.


  • Both pulled pork and chicken are excellent sources of protein, which is essential for muscle repair and overall health. Chicken breast tends to have slightly more protein per serving than pork.


  • Pulled Pork: May contain higher sodium levels if seasoned or marinated with salt-heavy rubs or sauces, but naturally not high in sodium.
  • Chicken: Can also be high in sodium if processed or marinated, but plain, unseasoned chicken has lower sodium levels.

Vitamins and minerals:

  • Pulled Pork: Provides various vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins (such as thiamin and niacin) and minerals such as zinc and iron (5).
  • Chicken: Also rich in B vitamins and provides important nutrients such as phosphorus and selenium (4).

Health Considerations:

  • Heart Health: Due to its higher saturated fat content, regular consumption of large portions of pulled pork may not be ideal for heart health compared to lean chicken, unless leaner cuts of pork are used (5).
  • Weight Management: Chicken, particularly the breast, is usually lower in calories and fat, which makes it a better option for weight management (4). However, the leanest cuts of pork, such as the tenderloin, can be comparable to chicken breast in calorie and fat content. 
  • Dietary Preferences and Restrictions: Pulled pork may be less suitable for those who are following low-fat or low-sodium diets, depending on the cut of pork used and what is added to the recipe. Chicken offers more flexibility for certain dietary restrictions.
  • What are the pros and cons of eating pork?

Eating pork is beneficial in some ways (it’s a great source of protein, iron, and other nutrients) but has downsides too (particularly when consumed in large amounts). Let’s take a closer look at its pros and cons:


1. High Protein Content

Pork is an excellent source of high-quality protein, which is essential for muscle growth and repair. For every 100 grams of pork, you get approximately 25 grams of protein. This makes it a valuable food for athletes, bodybuilders, and anyone who is looking to maintain or increase muscle mass (5).

2. Rich in Essential Vitamins and Minerals

Pork is packed with essential vitamins and minerals, including (5):

  • B Vitamins: Pork is particularly high in B vitamins such as B1 (thiamine), B6, and B12, which are essential for energy production, brain function, and red blood cell formation.
  • Iron: Helps prevent anemia by helping with hemoglobin production.
  • Zinc: Supports immune function and DNA synthesis.
  • Phosphorus: Important for healthy bones and teeth.

3. Versatility in Cooking

Pork is one of the most versatile meats and can be cooked in a variety of ways to suit different cuisines and dietary preferences. From grilled pork chops and pulled pork sandwiches to stir-fried pork and roasted pork loin, the possibilities are endless. This versatility allows you to easily incorporate pork into diverse meal plans and recipes.

4. Healthy Fat Content

Certain cuts of pork, such as tenderloin and loin chops, are lean and contain less fat than beef or lamb while still offering a good source of healthy fats. These fats are necessary for absorbing fat-soluble vitamins and providing long-lasting energy. In addition, pork fat contains oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat (5). However, it’s still fairly high in saturated fat, so it’s advisable to opt for the leaner cuts.

5. Affordable Protein Source

Compared to other protein sources such as beef or fish, pork is often more affordable, which makes it accessible for families on a budget. The lower cost doesn’t compromise its nutritional value, allowing for a nutritious diet without breaking the bank.


1. Health Concerns

Pork, particularly processed pork products such as bacon, sausages, and ham, can be high in saturated fats and sodium. Consuming large amounts of these may contribute to health issues such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and increased risk of stroke. Processed meats, including some pork products, also increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Pork may contain parasites such as Trichinella spiralis, which can cause trichinosis if the meat is not cooked properly (5).

2. Religious Beliefs

For many, abstaining from pork is a matter of religious observance. In Islam, the consumption of pork is prohibited by the Quran. Similarly, many Jews adhere to dietary laws outlined in the Torah, which also forbid pork. These religious guidelines are strictly followed by millions of people all around the world.

3. Ethical Concerns

Some individuals avoid pork due to concerns about animal welfare. The conditions in which pigs are raised on industrial farms can be troubling for many. Issues such as overcrowding, lack of natural behaviors, and the use of antibiotics are common points of concern. Choosing not to consume pork can be a stance against these practices.

4. Environmental Impact

The environmental footprint of pork production is significant. Raising pigs requires substantial amounts of water, feed, and land. Pork production also results in considerable greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change (6). By avoiding pork, some people aim to reduce their environmental impact.

5. Dietary Preferences

Many people opt for diets that exclude meat or animal products altogether, such as vegetarianism or veganism. For these individuals, eliminating pork is part of a broader commitment to a plant-based diet. This choice is often driven by a combination of health, ethical, and environmental reasons.

  • What is the healthiest way to cook meat?

Cooking meat in a healthy manner involves methods that minimize the addition of unhealthy fats and reduce the formation of harmful compounds. Grilling, broiling, baking, roasting, braising, or steaming are all healthy ways to cook meat (3).

1. Grilling

  • Advantages: Grilling allows fat to drip away from the meat, reducing its overall fat content.
  • Tips: Avoid charring the meat to reduce the formation of carcinogenic substances. Use marinades with herbs such as rosemary or thyme to reduce harmful compound formation.

2. Baking/Roasting

  • Advantages: Baking or roasting uses dry heat and doesn’t require added fats. This method helps retain nutrients.
  • Tips: Cook meat on a rack to allow fats to drip off. Keep temperatures moderate to avoid burning.

3. Broiling

  • Advantages: Similar to grilling, broiling cooks meat quickly at high heat, which allows fat to drain away.
  • Tips: Place a drip pan underneath to catch excess fat. Watch closely to avoid overcooking or burning.

4. Steaming

  • Advantages: Steaming preserves most of the nutrients and doesn’t require any added fats.
  • Tips: Use seasonings and herbs to enhance the flavor as steaming can sometimes result in bland meat.

5. Poaching

  • Advantages: Poaching involves cooking meat in simmering liquid, which keeps it moist and tender without added fats.
  • Tips: Use broth, wine, or seasoned water to add flavor.

6. Slow Cooking

  • Advantages: Slow cooking at low temperatures helps retain moisture and flavor without added fats.
  • Tips: Choose lean cuts and trim visible fat before cooking. Use plenty of vegetables for added nutrition.

General Tips:

  • Trim Fat: Always trim visible fat from meat before cooking.
  • Avoid Processed Meats: Choose fresh, unprocessed meats whenever possible.
  • Use Healthy Fats: If adding fat, use healthy options such as olive oil or avocado oil.

Monitor Cooking Time and Temperature: Burning or charring can create harmful compounds. Use a meat thermometer to ensure you cook to safe internal temperatures without overdoing it.

  • What meat has the most protein?

The meat with the highest protein content is generally lean poultry, specifically chicken breast. Here are some examples of high-protein meats per 100 grams (7):

  1. Chicken Breast: Approximately 31 grams of protein.
  2. Turkey Breast: Approximately 29 grams of protein.
  3. Lean Beef: Approximately 26 grams of protein.
  4. Pork Loin: Approximately 25 grams of protein.
  5. Tuna (cooked): Approximately 30 grams of protein.
  6. Salmon: Approximately 25 grams of protein.

These values can vary slightly based on the preparation method and specific cut of meat.

The Bottom Line

Despite how fatty and unhealthy it may seem, pork can actually be part of a healthy diet. Just make sure you choose leaner cuts, trim any visible fat, and cook it in a healthy way. 

And when you’re looking for side dishes to serve with your pork, focus on whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. These healthy options will help round out your meal and make it a little bit lighter.


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


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